Unitec grows a tree col­lec­tion

Auckland City Harbour News - - WS - By DANIELLE STREET

Botanical en­thu­si­asts will be able to in­dulge their pas­sions with the launch of an ar­bore­tum on the ex­pan­sive Unitec grounds.

The idea for the ar­bore­tum was planted three years ago when land­scape ar­chi­tec­ture lec­turer Penny Clif­fin de­cided to get her stu­dents to doc­u­ment the flora within the univer­sity’s 55ha prop­erty.

The pro­ject at­tracted a grant from the school’s en­vi­ron­ment sus­tain­abil­ity fund and grew from there.

Ms Clif­fin says an ar­bore­tum is a man­aged col­lec­tion of trees which is de­signed in part for re­search and ed­u­ca­tional pur­poses.

It also needs to be doc­u­mented and la­belled and have a sup­port­ing li­brary.

She says they made a cou­ple of sur­pris­ing dis­cov­er­ies while doc­u­ment­ing the school’s trees.

‘‘Over by Build­ing 48 it is a hot spot with a big col­lec­tion of both na­tive and ex­otic trees over 100 years old. There are some botan­i­cally rare trees amongst them like the Ja­panese tan oak,’’ she says.

‘‘I didn’t know that tree be­fore I saw it there, and there are two on cam­pus. As far as I know they are the only two in Auck­land.’’

There is also what is be­lieved to be the largest jacaranda tree in Auck­land – Ms Clif­fin’s per­sonal favourite.

‘‘An­other dis­tin­guish­ing mark is that the ar­bore­tum marks the four eras of land use,’’ she says.

In the 14th cen­tury the land had been used by Maori set­tlers in the area, un­til the mid-1800s when it was pur­chased by the Crown and was used by Euro­pean set­tlers for farm­land.

In the late 18th cen­tury the crown com­mis­sioned a ‘‘lu­natic asy­lum’’ which was later known as Car­ring­ton Psy­chi­atric Hos­pi­tal.

The hos­pi­tal boasted a spring and beau­ti­ful gardens that were tended by the pa­tients.

In 1992 Car­ring­ton closed and two years later Unitec opened its de­sign school in the for­mer hos­pi­tal build­ing.

The ar­bore­tum can be best ap­pre­ci­ated by a walk around the school grounds which takes most of an hour.

More than 100 trees have been la­belled with a spe­cial sys­tem of stain­less steel la­bels that al­low the tree to ex­pand with­out caus­ing harm.

The la­bels have QR codes that can be scanned by smart­phones, al­low­ing peo­ple to gather more in­for­ma­tion about the trees.

Ms Clif­fin says the Unitec grounds al­ready draw in res­i­dents who want a stim­u­lat­ing walk and the ar­bore­tum will bring in more of the pub­lic.

‘‘I think a lot of peo­ple value this area as a big open green space,’’ she says.

‘‘With higher den­sity hous­ing ex­pected for Auck­land in the fu­ture these kinds of spa­ces where peo­ple can bring their kids and walk their dogs are be­com­ing more and more im­por­tant.’’

Pho­tos: JA­SON OXENHAM

Green­thumb: Penny Clif­fin, right, and re­search as­sis­tant Daisy Tang put the com­mu­nity to work plant­ing more trees and weed­ing at the launch of the Unitec ar­bore­tum.

Up­stream: A fish lad­der has been built in Unitec’s Suf­frage Gar­den to help fish climb their way to the up­per stream.

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